October 4, 2008

Turnovers benefit Pokes in win

STILLWATER - So much for those recent painful memories against Texas A&M.

Coming into the game, Oklahoma State was a heavy favorite against the Aggies. The Cowboys delivered on expectations, posting a 56-28 victory in front of 51,147 fans at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday night.

The big point spread in favor of OSU (5-0 overall, 1-0 Big 12) was all about respecting its explosive offense. And while the Pokes jumped out to a 21-0 lead to start the game, it wasn't just the offense doing the scoring. In fact, in the first half, the scores seemed to come from everywhere else.

The Aggies (2-3, 0-1) committed five turnovers, all in the first two quarters. The Pokes were able to make them pay for most of those mistakes, with Ugo Chinasa serving as a one-man wrecking crew against the Ags. He picked up a fumble as well as nabbing a loose ball out of the air for an interception, which he ran in six yards for the score. The Aggies suffered two more fumbles and another interception - which Patrick Lavine scored on - in the half. Add that to an amazing Dez Bryant 78-yard kickoff return and the defense and special teams bailed out the offense, which only had 146 yards of total in the first 30 minutes of play.

And the Pokes needed every bit of that help early.

"We've got to give a lot of credit to our defensive staff," co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer said. "They were able to create some turnovers and do some things."

The defense stepping up in the early going was important for the Pokes. In the first half, the offense was frustrated by looks A&M hasn't shown at all this season. Not just nuanced changes, but more like 180-degree differences in terms of attack and philosophy.

"Defensively, they were a three-down team that caused a lot of confusion and blitzed and a lot of things that way and mixed in some four-down with their blitzes," Brewer said. "They went in the game and did just the opposite. They went to a base front and played cover two. And I think some of that was to make sure that Dez and some of our other guys, our big-play capability kind of took that and made us go down the field more and do it the hard way. We've seen that all year but we didn't suspect it from them because they had been a come-after-you, lot-of-disruption and we worked hard all week for that."

Quarterback Zac Robinson said he has never seen anything like what A&M did. In fact, he said the only thing they did on the field the team had seen on tape came on the first touchdown pass to Bryant. Other than that? Everything they did wasn't what OSU was expecting.

"It was different," he said. "I don't know if I've ever played a team that just completely scrapped what they've done the first four games and gave us something totally different. We adjusted at halftime and the coaches did a good job adjusting and we came out in the second half and executed a little bit better."

While this wasn't the cleanest game for OSU, a win is a win. The Cowboys now have five wins in their first five games of 2008. And the fact that OSU won by 28 points without the offense running on all cylinders the entire game is likely a big positive for the team overall.

"I was really, really proud of the defense," head coach Mike Gundy said. "One of the things I talked about in the locker room was that there has been so much talk going on outside of our building about the offense outscoring everybody. They wonder if the defense can hold up. In the first half, (the defense) scored two touchdowns for us and set us up for a couple of runners. That not only kept us in the game, but also kept the momentum from swinging in Texas A&M's favor. It was a great lift for them. Give a lot of credit to the defensive side of the ball for what they were able to do in the first half."

For the game, the OSU offense finished with 401 yards in total, while A&M ended the night with 402. The only "normal" individual stat for the Cowboys came from Bryant, who caught five passes for 106 yards and three scores. He added another 110 yards in return yardage and one more touchdown to make it four overall on the night. Kendall Hunter had 90 yards on 21 attempts, with Robinson posting 66 yards and two rushing TDs on 15 tries. As for Keith Toston, he had 59 yards on nine rushes. On the other side of the field, one-time OSU commit Michael Goodson had 112 yards and two scores on only eight carries.

"I think we played a great game, defensively and offensively," Goodson said. "We just made a ton of mistakes. We didn't really deserve to win in my eyes. We just turned the ball over and over again, something we are going to have to work on."

Next up for the Pokes is a mammoth game on the road at Missouri next Saturday, which is set for a national telecast on either ESPN or ESPN2.

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